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Do You Believe in Omens? Bangkok Post: March 16, 2004

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Submitted by:
Maureen Paetkau
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Submitted on: 04/02/2004 23:13:48 

Topic: Spelling, Vocabulary, Grammar, Pronunciation, Role Play, Group Work, Culture and History, Social Studies, Politics, One-to-One Tutoring
Level: Intermediate, Advanced,
Age: Teens, Adults,
Skill: Listening, Speaking, Reading Comprehension, Writing,
A fun story to read and discuss about a misfortunate break of a political party's symbol and the superstitious thoughts that surfaced as a result.
Have the students actively read, search for information, scan for new vocabulary and guess meanings from context.
40+ minutes

Do You Believe in Omens?

Many Thais are superstitious – perhaps the majority of them. So when strange or unusual events happen, they often see them as omens or signs of future happenings. Other Thais laugh at such beliefs, saying that belief in the supernatural is outdated in these modern, scientific times.

Thai politicians are famous for their belief in superstitions. It would be unusual indeed for an incoming cabinet minister to fail to have a ceremony offering respect to the sacred symbols outside his/her ministry, for example.

Thus, it was not surprising to see many unhappy faces among Democrat politicians at their party headquarters recently after strange things kept happening to the party’s marble statue of Mother Earth. The following news story has the details. First read it to find out exactly what happened and, as you do, consider the following:

1.   How did the latest mishap (accident) happen?

2.   What happened to the previous statue, the bronze statue?

3.   Of the Democrat politicians mentioned in the story, who seems to be superstitious and who d

Now think about the significance of the story. Depending on your own beliefs:

1.   Explain why you think this is clearly an omen. Explain what it might mean. Give suggestions to the Democrats about what they should do to make things better.

2.   Explain why you do not think this is an omen.



 Patched-up bronze statue

 The marble statue after it was shattered.

       The statue before the latest mishap


Party symbol breaks again during move: Banyat denies latest mishap is a bad omen


Know these words and phrases

Superstitious: believing that certain events happen in a way that cannot be explained by reason or science or that events bring good or bad luck

Omen: a sign of what is going to happen in the future

Supernatural: that which cannot be explained by the laws of science

Wringing: twisting and squeezing to remove water

Hoisted: raised or pulled to a higher position using ropes

Murmuring: saying in a very soft voice

Pillar: a support; a metal or wooden support

Thick and thin: good times and bad times

Brittle: very easily broken


The Democrat party’s marble statue of Mother Earth broke into pieces yesterday as it was being moved.

It was the second mishap involving the opposition party’s symbol in less than four months.

The marble statue of the goddess wringing dry her long hair was being erected in place of the old one made of bronze. A new base was built to hold the statue of the goddess. The 1,000kg image was being hoisted onto the base when the rope holding the statue came loose. It tipped to one side and crashed onto the base, breaking into five pieces.

Party secretary-general Pradit Pattharaprasit, who supervised the relocation ceremony, was visibly upset.

He was heard murmuring: "Here we go again."

The party held the ceremony yesterday at its headquarters after receiving the statue from Chiang Rai. It was intended to replace the old bronze statue, after part of the long hair broke off in November when it was moved. The hair was re-attached with adhesive tape.

Party figures denied the mishaps were bad omens for the party’s future. Khunying Kalaya Sophonpanich, a list MP, said it was obvious the bronze goddess did not wish to be moved. She said the old image was sacred, the party’s spiritual pillar through thick and thin. It stood proud when the Democrats led two coalition governments.

Party leader Banyat Bantadtan said the accident must be explained in scientific terms. The marble was brittle and would naturally break in a fall.

Maj-Gen Sanan Kachornprasart, former party secretary-general, said he would restore the bronze image and permanently fix the broken hair.



With more than 150 stories to choose from each day in the Bangkok Post, it shouldn’t be difficult to find reading material for your class. I have chosen what I think is a very good example. The short news story is fun to read, think and talk about.

Depending on the abilities and interests of your class, you might want to begin with a brief discussion of their feelings towards superstitions. Do they ever see supernatural significance in events around them? Have they ever bought a lottery ticket based on a dream or some other experience, for example? Obviously you will want to do this in English if possible, but in many classes, their native language may be necessary.

Next, have students read the story for precise information. This can be done individually or in groups. If some of the important vocabulary is unfamiliar to them, you might want to have them act out the situation. This is very good for reinforcing the idea behind words like "hoist", for example.

The three fact questions should not be a problem. The fun part of the lesson will probably be the last part where students make the case for or against the mishaps being an omen. Again, English would be ideal, but let them use their native language if necessary.

Try having the students do some role plays revolved around the accident and perhaps some of the future events in the political party!
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